Friday, September 04, 2009

7069: Detroit Food Desert Not Deserted.

From CBS News…

Bringing Fresh Food to Areas that Get None

Trucks Funded by Grant Program Bring Produce to Blighted Detroit Neighborhoods with No Grocery Stores

(CBS) Apples and oranges, peaches and green vegetable: they may be ordinary items in most of America, but in some poor inner cities they’re hard to find — and sorely missed.

But one state is taking a fresh approach to the problem and, as CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds reports, it’s bearing fruit.

Most every day Butch Robinson drives his truck filled with fresh fruit and vegetables into Detroit’s inner city.

“That definitely makes me feel good,” Robinson said. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s being brung into Detroit that’s not so good.”

Unemployed for a year before recently getting this job, Butch works for Peaches and Greens, one of three suppliers involved in a Michigan pilot program to bring healthy food to the front door. It’s a program that Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says “will make a difference in the health of our citizens here in the city of Detroit.”

Certainly the need is there.

“There’s some kids that think fruit comes from a can,” said Lisa Johanon, executive director of the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corp.

Johanon is the founder of Peaches and Greens, which dispatches the trucks filled with locally grown produce twice a day Monday through Friday from its small store in the urban wasteland.

“There’s no rocket science to this at all,” Johanon said. “I mean it’s a very simple thing — put some produce on a truck and you drive through the neighborhood.”

These are blighted neighborhoods where liquor stores - and there are plenty of them — offer groceries as an afterthought.

What kind of food do you get at a liquor store?

“Well,” says Johanon, “you don’t get anything fresh. That’s for sure.”

It’s ironic that in the Motor City, 20 percent of the people don’t have a car. And if they want to take a bus to a full-fledged grocery in the suburbs, it’ll be about a two-hour trip - one way.

There’s plenty of produce in those suburbs. But in Detroit there’s not even one major grocery chain store.

“We have a whole generation of people who were raised on fast food,” said Kim Trent, director of the Governor’s Office for Southeast Michigan, riding in on of the produce trucks.

Johanon knows the consequences: “High blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes. And these are things that run rampant in this city and are major causes of death in this city.”

All of which brings us back to Butch and his truck.

“This is the best service you ever want to see,” said one customer. “I depend on this truck, alright? I mean seriously I depend on this truck,” added another.

“It’s really a beautiful thing, you know, it really is,” Robinson said. And in these tough Detroit neighborhoods — a sign of hope.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post.

I live in Ann Arbor, and I went to Detroit's Eastern Market this weekend the first time to pick up some hard to find Local Food items.

What stood out was the large size of the Eastern Market. I have been reading about the problems with Detroit's residents not being able to have access to fresh produce, which some refer to as an Urban Desert.

I see the Eastern Market is an Oasis. The place is huge and teaming with table after table of fresh, local and usually comparably priced food with that of a super market.

I think trucks bringing fresh food to neighborhoods is great, and I also think that there could be a programs to shuttle residents to the Eastern Market too.

Do you know of a shuttle programs that takes residents with little access to fresh produce to the Eastern Market?